Found to the North of Cape Town, the Cederberg mountains are now part of a nature reserve, connected to the Cape Floral Kingdom, and a national conservation site. This places the Cederberg wine estate in somewhat of a unique position, and in fact the estate is also in a unique position when it comes to its placement, over 3,200 feet above sea levels. It is the highest vineyard in South Africa, and naturally has a cool climate, since some of the vineyards are actually above the ‘snow line’ on the mountains. The cold of the winter is overshadowed by the heat of the sun, which encourages the vines to bud and then ripen their fruit.
The wine estate has a long history, and Cederberg prides itself on acknowledging the tribes that came before the European settlers, gifting the area a fantastic range of rock art pieces. The inhospitable landscape meant that there was a long period where settlers were at the Cape, but were not living in the Cederberg area. Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did travellers come forward to set up homes in that area. The Nieuwoudt family set up home at the high altitude after many generations of living in the Cape. By 1893 the family had moved into farming, and settled on the Dwarsrivier farm. It is this estate which is still in the hands of their descendants.
Like many wine growers who are living in conservation areas, the Cederberg wine estate is mainly comprised of large areas devoted to the native fauna of the country. The vigorous fynbos are the majority of the plants in the estate, with only slightly more than 50 hectares being used as vineland. The vines are relatively new acquisitions, with some speculating that the plants had been brought into the Cederberg as late as the 1960s or 70s. Compared to some of the wine farms in South Africa, this makes Cederberg a relatively young farm.
Despite the youth of the farm, its vines have done enormously well in a short space of time. The estate is mentioned in the first ever Platters Wine Guide of 1980, noting the success of the red wine production, and the first vintage from the estate, which was in 1977. However, others claim that a knowledgeable friend decided that the Cederberg farm, already growing a variety of winter-type fruits, would be able to grow red grapes effectively. The family began by planting table grapes, and making small amounts of cheap wine from them, before strong Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted in 1973.
Since 1973, the wine estate has gone from strength to strength, all under the leadership of the Nieuwoudt family. The current owner, David Nieuwoudt, has been classically trained in wine culture, and has used this to create a number of distinctive red wines. Red grapes make up 60 percent of the produce from the farm, and this is put to use in wine production. Some of the white wines, such as the Ghost Corner, made from Semillon, is only aged in wood for a few months before becoming drinkable, for example.